Rolling the dice of love 

Bobby O’Neal thanks Whistler for the success of his board game Synchrohearts


He has been called "Canada's Dr. Love" by radio broadcasters in the United States.

And he has received testimonials from couples from Montreal to Iran, thanking him for developing his relationship board game.

But one week away from Valentine's Day, Bobby O'Neal thanks Whistler and the Sea to Sky area for help making Syncrohearts such a hit.

"Several years ago, I was inspired to create Syncrohearts to help enhance my own marriage," said O'Neal.

"Nanci and I were both working and raising a family and life was too busy. We were not connecting the way we needed to and our relationship was suffering. We knew too many couples that had split up and I did not want to become a 50 per cent statistic."

O'Neal decided to create a relationship love game that was fun to play and that connected couples over the roll of a dice and the directive of cards.

He spent two years researching and developing the game, including seeking out professional advice on what to include.

"I tested it on friends and family in the Whistler and Pemberton area," said the former forestry worker who spends a lot of time in the Sea to Sky corridor. "We knew we were onto something good when our family and friends did not return the prototypes."

Bobby and Nanci O'Neal took out a mortgage on their home to finance the first production of 2,500 games, made in Vancouver, and Syncrohearts was unleashed on the market three years ago.

The game was a success.

The first production phase sold out, causing the O'Neals to release a second production phase. The game is now sold in Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Finland and Iran.

It's a romantic game, not a triple x game, said O'Neal, but guys play it to get lucky as well as to learn and grow their relationships. When the game was first released, 80 per cent of their customers were women, but now that number has shifted to 50 per cent.

O'Neal had a spot on CBC's Dragon's Den, where he won the popular vote and finished in the top 10. The game has since been picked up by Hasbro, one of the biggest game companies in the world.

"When I took it to the Hasbro game and toy fair, I showed them our game and got to meet the vice president of product acquisition, Mike Hirtle," said O'Neal.

"He is the guy that looks at new products. Mike said Hasbro was not interested in relationships games. During the meeting, his Blackberry went off and he got a message from his wife wishing him a happy 32 nd anniversary. He had forgotten! He looked at me and said maybe there is a market for this game."

Despite Syncroheart's success, Bobby O'Neal still makes sure to keep ties to the Whistler area.

He visits the area often and calls Whistler his favourite mountain. He recently made a YouTube video with a funny love lesson from Tiger Woods, which was set in Whistler and made references to the resort municipality and the Olympics.

Whistler's adult love shop, The Love Nest, also carries the game.

"We had to leave the area due to the high real estate prices, but perhaps when Syncrohearts sells a million games, we'll be able to return," he said.

And as for his advice to Whistler lovers?

"I think the main thing about the Whistler and Pemberton area is that you have got tremendous opportunities for outdoor recreation and doing phenomenal things together, but it is really important to also take that time to communicate and focus on each other and the relationship," said O'Neal.

"I think a lot of times, if couples are not sharing things together and doing things together, they can drift apart. You look at our society, everyone is so busy. What Syncrohearts does is slow people down and make you smell the roses."

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